Alcoa Uses Raft to Honor Fallen Navy SEAL’s Sacrifice and Motivate Playoff Team | Sports

Adam Brown’s sacrifice was not lost for the Alcoa football team, defensive coordinator Brian Nix made sure of that.

Brown died fighting in the Afghan province of Komar for the US Navy SEAL Six as part of Operation Enduring Freedom on March 17, 2010. The story of his life, from the fight against drug addiction to membership to one of the elite combat forces of the US military, is recounted in the book “Without Fear” by Eric Blehm.

This book is where Nix learned more about Brown and is why he uses his story as a motivator for the Tornadoes as they go through the playoffs and toward another state championship.

“Every year we do some kind of playoff book study, so this year we’re doing the ‘Fearless’ book on Adam Brown,” Nix told the Daily Times. “All his life with drug addiction he was on the verge of suicide. His life was as bad as it could have been, then he joined the Navy, was part of Team SEAL Six and was later killed in Afghanistan.

It all started before Alcoa’s Class 3A playoff second round game against Gatlinburg-Pittman, which coincidentally fell on Veterans Day weekend on Nov. 12.

Alcoa stormed into Goddard Field with team captains holding American flags and behind them the rest of the team hoisting a green raft – on loan to the Adventure Unlimited program, a whitewater rafting outfitter on the Ocoee River – at the over their heads. After defeating the Highlanders, 63-0, to advance to the quarterfinals against Pigeon Forge the following week, the Tornadoes once again carried the raft together.

“There is a video where they talk about the concept of SEAL training where when you have to carry the raft there are guys in the back dodging the boat and then there are guys in the front blocking the raft. wind and lead, ”Nix said. “We say you are a member of a team, but you are the weaker part of that team. So speaking of that emphasis from the start, that in the playoffs everyone has to contribute because everyone is talking about how you can learn life lessons from the sport, but if you don’t point it out to these guys, many of them will miss these lessons.

“We’re trying to take, through this book study, some aspects of the character because it’s a long season. It’s five extra weeks of the season, so it’s that visual reminder.

While the Raft is a nod to the rigorous training that SEALs like Brown have had to go through, Alcoa has added a more personal touch to their helmets this season with a Batman logo sticker that every Tornado player has placed on it. back of their helmets as a tribute to Brown’s favorite comic book hero.

“We also have this Batman sticker on our helmet because Adam Brown was a huge superhero lover,” Nix said. “His kids gave him these Batman underwear and the night he was killed he was wearing these underwear. They made a memorial for him in Arkansas where he came from and the most important thing on that memorial was a Batman symbol, which is why these stickers are on the helmet. We’re still trying to do that visual representation and I hope it’s something they remember.

This portrayal didn’t take long for the team to understand and appreciate, especially for head captain and quarterback Caden Buckles.

After just one week, players began to clamor for the opportunity to be the leaders ahead of the Pigeon Forge game, inspired by the lessons they learned from the SEAL training videos and the meaning of the training.

“After the first week I walked into the tunnel over there, some guys were like, ‘I want to wear it! I want to wear it, ”Buckles said. “So it’s definitely something that people are looking at and it’s just kind of an honor behind it. It’s a really cool feeling. The guys running behind me, carrying this boat, they know that means something bigger than them, that’s a really cool thing.

The raft isn’t the first prop Nix used as a playoff motivation tool. The tradition has been around since Nix joined the staff in 2004 and is based on leadership books he has read and discussed with his players.

“The theme (in 2004) was ‘500 downs’, because then it was so foreign to us,” Nix said. “Two years before that Alcoa was 2-8, so you know we were just trying to motivate them, and then the next year we did Molon Labe (Greek for ‘Come and Take’) which I pulled from ‘a book. I read a lot and have been doing it for 18 years.

Studying the book was a new approach for Buckles when he joined the team last season as a transfer from Knoxville Catholic High School before helping lead the Tornadoes in a playoff series which ended with their sixth consecutive state title, but he appreciated the merit and used the approach to improve in his preparation for every game he played.

“The fact that we do a book study every year, I learned about it last year,” Buckles said. “Just all the stories behind it and the things you don’t really understand about the aspect of leadership that is being taught to you throughout these five weeks, it makes a huge difference to anything you think about. “

Nix repeated some of the same themes and studies from books he used with previous teams, but there was something different about “Fearless” and its connection to the current Alcoa team, which will play. for a state title game on Friday against Giles County at Goddard Field in the semifinals.

“I’ve been holding this one for four or five years and felt the timing was right because of this senior class,” Nix said. “I don’t know how tight they are off the pitch, but I think they are tight on the pitch. I don’t think there is any resentment. It’s just that a lot of guys want to win, want to be successful. I wanted to do this as a leadership thing for them but also as a recognition from Adam.

“When you read a book, you feel like you know someone and the sacrifices that man made. What he has done for us is certainly not forgotten.

Follow @ByNoahTaylor on Twitter to learn more about sports reporter Noah Taylor.

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